Med+Proctor Immunization Blog

Immunizations: Building a lifetime of protection

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – As families prepare for the start of another school year, the Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Branch (DHA IHB) is helping people build a lifetime of protection through immunization. Vaccines are not just for young children – vaccines protect people of all ages, from birth to retirement. “It is the responsibility of all eligible individuals to receive the recommended immunizations throughout their lives,” said Army Col. Margaret Yacovone, Chief, DHA IHB. “Getting immunized protects you and everyone around you. Choosing not to be immunized puts the individual, as well as those in their community, including their family and loved ones, and those too sick to be vaccinated, at risk for disease.” Due to our mobile and increasingly global society, a vaccine-preventable disease could easily be introduced into a community at any time given the ease of travel and a vulnerable population. For example, a person in the U.S. died of measles this year, the first such death in more than 12 years. That death is part of a larger disease outbreak that started in 2014 among unprotected international travelers and spread mostly through pockets of unvaccinated people in this country. With the high mobility of military populations, it is essential both to receive recommended vaccines for travel to specific countries, which will allow for ease of travel, as well as to ensure these immunizations are properly and centrally documented to avoid unnecessary immunizations. The recommended childhood, adolescent and adult immunization schedules in the U.S. protect against 23 diseases. In addition to routine schedules, influenza vaccinations are given annually to everyone 6 months of age and older. Other vaccines are given to people of all ages who are at increased risk of serious complications due to certain medical conditions. Members of our military receive vaccines when they enter basic training and before they deploy to protect them against disease threats specific to these environments. “There are even vaccines, like HPV or hepatitis B, that can protect against certain types of cancer, such as cancer of the liver, or cancers of the reproductive system,” Yacovone said. “We can start protecting people before they’re born,” she said, adding that “influenza and tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccines are recommended for routine use in pregnant women, because antibodies can provide protection for the newborns who are too young to be immunized.” While some parents worry that their children are receiving too many immunizations too soon, healthy children’s immune systems are more than capable of handling and responding to each and every immunization in the recommended schedule.  By choosing not to vaccinate on time, children may be put at risk, especially in environments like schools and day care centers where diseases can spread very easily. The DHA IHB offers immunization health care, policy support, education, research, quality assurance, and informational services to uniformed personnel to include the Coast Guard, their families, retirees and other Department of Defense beneficiaries. “There are always going to be disease threats.  Service members and their families, because they are highly mobile and often living overseas, may be more likely to encounter these threats,” Yacovone said. “Immunizations are often the best protection no matter where you are or how old you are.” Source: Immunizations: Building a lifetime of protection

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